Abraham's Sons

Abraham's two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, are described as symbols for those born of flesh and those born of promise. The numbers point at a book with two generations that exemplify the pattern.

Galatians 4:21-5:1

21Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had 2 sons, 1 by a slave woman and 1 by a free woman. 23He who was born of the slave woman was born after the flesh. He who was born of the free woman was born by promise. Galatians 4:21-2324These things are a symbol of the 2 contracts. The one from Mount Sinai gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar. 25For Hagar is the mount of Sinai in Arabia and surrenders to Jerusalem which now is and is in bondage with her children. 26But, the Jerusalem which is above, is free, and is the mother of us all, 27for it is written: Make merry you barren who do not bear, rejoice and cry you who do not travail, for the children of the desolate are more numerous than the children of the wife. Q Isaiah 54:1 Galatians 4:24-2728We, my brothers, are the children of promise, as was Isaac. 29As then, he who was born after the flesh, persecuted him who was born after the spirit, so even now. 30Yet, what does the writing say? Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the female servant will not inherit with the son of the free woman. Q Genesis 21:10 31We, therefore, my brothers, are not children of the female servant, but children of the free woman. Galatians 4:28-31 1Therefore stand firm in the freedom with which the anointed has made us free and do not be harnessed again in a yoke of servitude. Galatians 5:1 (Galatians 4:21-5:1 BRB)


2+2 = 4 = Numbers


The book of Numbers is about two generations of Hebrews. The first are those who were of age when they left Egypt. They were counted, from 19 years of age and up, in the first census, shortly after leaving Egypt. The second generation are those who were under age when they left Egypt or born during the 40 years in the wilderness. They also were counted, 19 years and up, in a second census, shortly before crossing the Jordan River.

Paul's symbolic use of Abraham's two sons works really well with these two generations. One example is the question of inheritance. Ishmael was not able to inherit, but Isaac was. In the book of Numbers the first generation died in the wilderness when they were unwilling to go into the promise land, but the second generation would eventually inherit the promise.

Ishmael's mother was Egyptian while Isaac's was Hebrew. The two generations that left Egypt were both Hebrew by descent, but the first generation, having grown up in Egypt, were Egyptian in their cultural orientation and thinking. That was their single biggest problem since Yahvah was out to free them from thinking and living like slaves, but they were unable to shed Egypt. The second generation, though, was able to adjust to the new normal and obey when called to go fight for their future. They were free, like Isaac.

Paul also says the Ishmael type persecute the Isaac type. In the case of the two generations in Numbers, the first generation doomed the second to 40 years in the wilderness when they would not take Canaan, which could have been taken and settled in a matter of years. In this sense the Ishmael generation "persecuted" the Isaac generation.